Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Good to be appreciated

Yes we still have a lot of snow to get rid
of! Ian has been moving it around, to
clear the snow from around the
polytunnel in preparation for work
to commence on it.
Well thanks for waiting, but I just plain ran out of time yesterday. I had studying to do in the morning and then in the afternoon we attended a young ladies birthday party. It was lovely to be invited as a way of saying thank you for the help with transport issues and a fantastic time to hear the Latvian language around the dinner table. We were invited along with some other friends of ours and so there was a good flow of English too and time just flew by as we laughed and told stories, talked about farms, talked about families and generally got to know each other some more. We even became quite well acquainted with Raimonds and Rudolfs, the house shrews. Their cats are not interested in the shrews and it is a farm so only to be expected - good job we are not easily freaked out as they scurried about the kitchen floor while we were chatting in the dining room. We also had a trip out to the barn to see the animals as they have acquired a few more since the summer when we last had a tour, it was an incredible sight. At this time of the year the animals have to stay inside as they can't go out in the snow, so there are cows in stalls, sheep in pens with their babies, pigs in their own pens, chickens everywhere, rabbits scurrying around with the chickens and edging their way in to feed from the same trough and some rabbits in cages. What a menagerie and what a noise but I would rather see that kind of sight than the poor animals in industrial scale farms where the animals will never get to see the light of day. These animals maybe inside for quite a while with the long winters but come April or early May they will be outside enjoying the spring grass, and they seemed pretty happy with the human attention they were getting.

Knitted socks
I titled this blog "good to be appreciated" and indeed it is, I feel well and truly blessed this week to have appreciative neighbours, like the ones who invited us to the party but that wasn't all. One evening there was a ring at the door and my first thought was it was someone selling potatoes but it wasn't, it was a neighbour carrying a small bag. She explained that it was a just a very small way of saying thank you for what we have done and handed us the bag containing two pairs of socks. Now to some that might seem like an odd gift but not here in Latvia. When you go to a Latvian house you will be expected to take off your shoes unless there is good reason not to, like in farm houses, so a nice pair of thick socks to keep the chill off, or some slippers that will slip into a bag are good. Not only are they a nice pair of thick, warm socks they are a nice pair of hand-knitted socks which makes them even more special. To cap off this week even our sons were appreciative too after having some good chats.

Dismantling of the ruins in progress
It certainly is a good boost after a bit of a low time when I was beginning to wonder whether we are still heading in the right direction with our plans here in Latvia. It is easy to think when things are not happening or coming together that maybe we are on the wrong track, but sometimes it is just a matter of waiting (as my friend Mavis points out in her blog "Waiting time") but it is nice to have some confirmation of that, no matter how small. It doesn't take much to encourage me to keep going, but this week I feel that I have had more than a little confirmation. One of the things that has just not come together is our Jiksi business which we set up last year, one idea after another just didn't get going and I was beginning to think we should close it and think of something else but this last week there have been people who have thought the ideas were good ones, always a good thing, and we finally found someone who can help us with the administration which has been a real headache. Administration in Latvia can be rather bureaucratic with paperwork needed to breathe - okay that is perhaps an exaggeration - but the Latvians like their paperwork and it is probably needed to reduce corruption sometimes, but it can seem like a never ending hurdle, and so finding someone who can tackle that side of things is a real Godsend.

Last week's picture for contrast with this weeks

Now play spot the difference. Believe me when I say a lot
of snow has gone, just there is still a lot more to go
On the week after my certificate arrived from the Open University confirming I now have a Post Graduate Certificate in Development Management and can put PG Cert (Dev Mgmt)(Open) after my name, I had some more encouragement by being able to actually put some of my studies from that course and the one I am doing now into practice. It is all right having the ability to put those initials after my name which proclaims to one and all I am now able to do Development Management, it is quite another actually putting what I have learnt into practice into a real life scenario. Another neighbour is hoping to set up a business that will benefit the area we live in and it was useful to her to have some things to think about regarding aims so she can apply for funding. It was good to be able to draw on the knowledge of what funders are particularly looking for, what ticks the boxes for them, and to be down right honest it sure felt good to be able to help something along that fits in so well with what we would love to see happening here in the village.

See it is going! These pieces of equipment were virtually
under the snow last week
As I mentioned in my rather short blog yesterday we were heading into Riga today. We managed to get there in one piece, a feat in itself as it was an hour and three quarter drive on what could be termed farm track in most countries for the state it was in, the dirt roads were either wet ice or washboard surfaces and the tarmac once again was the springtime game of swerving around the potholes. Ian was helping out in the hospital, which he usually does once a month, by advising the doctor regarding the machine she uses in the diagnosis of leukaemia and helping to rectify a problem she was having and I went to visit a lady at the State Forest Service headquarters which entailed me taking a bus from near the hospital to the centre of the city. I was rather proud of myself for getting there using public transport. I got to the bus stop just as a bus pulled up and on the front it had Centrala tirgus, so taking the risk that this was going somewhere into the city centre I hopped on, only to find that most folks seem to have swipe cards and I had a moment of panic wondering if I should have prepaid somewhere when I noticed someone paying at the front. The driver though did not seem to understand what I was trying to say but I noticed it said something about 70 santims on a notice so paid that and he seemed happy enough, just had to pray no inspector would come on and question me on the ticket. It was only after I sat down I remembered that tirgus was market which was right opposite where I needed to be, so all was good. The reason I was in Riga is because I was on placement for one module of my course and it involves finding out what I can over the course of five days about forestry in Latvia. Normally the five days are done in one working week but due to the nature of the organisations concerned with forestry here in Latvia and the fact that they are all under a lot of pressure due to budget cuts it is not fair to spend five days in one place and so I have been visiting different people in different places and finding out about all the different aspects of forestry over a period of several months. I still have at least two more visits to make to complete my assignment but for at least one of them I need the snow to go and the ground to get a bit drier so we can do a forest visit.

I said I would post pictures of Ian's handiwork. This is the
coat rack made from a piece of wood destined for the fire
and three hooks. 
Since I am in rambling mood today I just wanted to ask if anyone has a similar problem to one I encountered this week. I managed to forget my key for our other apartment, not an unusual thing for me in itself, especially since I keep changing coats due to the warmer weather. I no longer need the cabbage layers and so just took a fleece last time I went to our other apartment. It takes about 10 mins to walk there and when I arrived I went to get the key out of my pocket and of course it wasn't there, it was in the fleece. I checked my pockets about three times but no it did not miraculously appear and then I stood and stared at the door, nope it didn't miraculously open just because I was staring at it. So what I want to know is why do we do that? Or is it just me? Why check three times in the same place and then stare at the door?  Anyway I walked back to get the key and then back again to the other apartment, but the weather was glorious and I needed the walk so no harm done.

The bath panel made from reclaimed panelling from our
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I got some Kefir grains and the good news is that they are doing well. In fact I they are doing so well that I have had to freeze some of the milk ones as I have an over abundance of them, and the water kefir ones are doing nicely too but I do need to feed them three teaspoons of sugar every other day. Besides an over abundance of the grains we were also getting an over abundance of kefirs and so I used it with some milk to make cheese using some rennet that my Mum sent me across in the post. Hopefully in about two weeks time I should have something with the texture akin to Lancashire cheese. If that works I think I might need to invest in some cheese moulds to make the job a little easier.

Okay not the best picture in the world, snow does not
photograph well on a dull day, but the bushes we planted
last year are just beginning to make an appearance in
their fir coats that they were wrapped in at the end of last
year before the snows came.
I managed to get some clarification this week on my frustrations with the lack of information regarding survivors to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami from a comment on a blog. I felt the concentration on the reactor and the economy seemed to have overtaken the real human cost of the earthquake but I found out that one of the reasons for the lack of information is the focus on the unfolding drama of the nuclear reactor in Japanese news. I guess what has been and gone has passed into history now but the reactor would seem to be an uncertain and present threat to the Japanese. At least I feel I understand the lack of news of the people now and I am glad to see that the news about the economy and all that happens with that has been relegated to a minor issue and not headlining.


  1. Thanks for the mention (again) Joanna. When I was reading about your new socks I couldn't help thinking that that lady might come in useful when you have loads of alpaca wool to sell or have made up into garments (to keep or to sell) Maybe another business in the making? But you're right, it does feel good to feel appreciated and accepted.

  2. There are lots of folks in the village that knit socks which is why we thought of having alpacas. Must say these socks are good, I'm sweltering

  3. Great to catch up with your news! Hope the snow continues to disappear - very spring-like here atm. Look after those socks! x

  4. I certainly will look after the socks they are so warm. Need to start taking orders for them for next year? Takers anyone? :o)

  5. Great post Joanna, first of all congrats on the OU Degree, really well done. I love your socks too. I have to say that I agree with the concern over the PEOPLE of Japan coming second in the news. Yes we know the reactor situation is bad but what about the humanity...it remains for me a terrible tragedy that brings news of more suffering evey day, there doesn't seem to be any good news coming from there that I can see.

  6. Thank you Karen. Glad I am not the only person to be concerned with what is actually going on with people and not reactors and business.


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